Marquette, Mich., has been named Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016, and the city will receive $150,000 for upgrades to Lakeview Arena and host a preseason game on Oct. 4 between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes that will be televised on NBCSN.
"The local rink is a hub of activity, excitement, entertainment and fun, a place where the love of hockey can energize an entire community," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "The National Hockey League is pleased to recognize all who participated in Kraft Hockeyville USA and is delighted to congratulate Marquette, Mich., for ensuring that an upgraded Lakeview Arena will be able to welcome future generations of hockey families, players, coaches and volunteers."
Marquette was one of more than 1,000 communities which submitted stories about the passion of hockey in their towns and finished ahead of runner-up Rapid City, S.D. (Rushmore Thunderdome) in an online vote. Rapid City will receive $75,000 for arena upgrades.
"We've seen amazing participation across the country in Kraft Hockeyville USA's second year," Nina Barton, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Kraft Heinz, said. "This year's contest led to millions of votes from passionate hockey fans, and we're so proud America has chosen the spirited, well-deserving community of Marquette as Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016."
Lakeview Arena opened in 1973 and was home to the Marquette Iron Rangers of the United States Hockey League. The Iron Rangers were the first North American professional team to sign a female player, Karen Koch in 1969.
Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, about 165 miles east of Marquette.
"I grew up about three hours from Marquette, so it will be fun to be on the Upper Peninsula [of Michigan] to be a part of this special event," Francis said. "We're thrilled to be involved with this initiative, which highlights the grassroots of our sport."
It's the second time the Sabres have played in a Kraft Hockeyville preseason game. They faced the Ottawa Senators in 2010 in Dundas, Ontario, that year's Hockeyville Canada winner.
"We're excited to once again have a chance to participate in a Kraft Hockeyville USA preseason game," Sabres general manager Tim Murray said. "As an organization we're proud to be a part of such a tremendous community initiative."
This is the second year of Kraft Hockeyville USA. Johnstown, Pa. won the inaugural title in 2015 and Cambria County War Memorial Arena hosted a preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.